A Modest Proposal for Clearing Dallas' Filthy Air

I try. I keep offering. Dallas doesn't have any problems it couldn't solve if it just looked to more advanced cities. I make suggestions. Dallas gets pissed off. I don't know what else I can do.

Recently I pointed out that Dallas could resolve its seemingly intractable 15-year-old standoff on what to do with the Trinity River by sending a team over to Galway, Ireland, to look at that city's Terryland Forest Park project.

Reaction? Zippo. They don't want to hear it. What, us copy Ireland? Oh, sure.

Three years ago I gave Dallas a really good tip on how to fix its perennially down-at-the-heels Farmers Market.

Easy. Send a team to Detroit, where the Eastern Market has become one of the most successful farmers markets in the nation, maybe the world, drawing hordes of people every weekend from surrounding states and Canada.

What? Dallas copy Detroit? Oh, sure. Why would we do that? Just because Detroit is at the top of the farmers market game and we're at the bottom?

Yes. That's why we would copy Detroit on this issue. But, no way. All I got for that was a lot of personal invective. It's just lucky for me I happen to like personal invective.

So, today, I try once more. I put myself out there for insult and abuse. Why? Because I love this place. I want to see us succeed through humility. And also, maybe, I'm hoping for a little more invective.

What's our worst problem? Do you know? Air. According to, an on-line environmental monitoring service that is quoted in scientific journals, Dallas County ranks consistently in the worst/dirtiest top 10 percent of American counties for air quality.

So how do fix that? Easy. Send a team to Mexico City. Great great story in The New York Times this morning about how Mexico City is at the global forefront of air pollution awareness and may soon eclipse major American cities in efforts to repair the air.

Beginning in the 1980s Mexico has mandated the reformulation of gasoline, shut down or moved toxic factories and banned people from using their cars one day a week. But the thing that probably illustrates their cutting-edge awareness better than any other is the creation of massive vertical gardens in Mexico City -- huge, densely planted walls, manmade green cliffs in effect -- to oxygenate the air.

Created by a company called VerdMx, the green walls are both art and high science. Their purpose is both to clean the air and cleanse the minds of harried urban dwellers. Just think how great it could be if we could accomplish either one of those, let alone both.

This paragraph in the Times story really leaps out:

"Both L.A. and Mexico City have improved but in Mexico City, the change has been a lot more," said Luisa Molina, a research scientist with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has done extensive pollution comparisons. Mexico "is very advanced not just in terms of Latin America, but around the world. When I go to China, they all want to hear the story of Mexico."

Do you see what I mean? The answers are out there. Dallas just needs to look to more advanced cities -- like Galway, like Detroit, like Mexico City -- to see what they're doing and then try the same stuff here.

The future is out there. It beckons us, if we can just manage a tiny little bit of humility about it. Maybe we should make that our motto.

Success Through Humility.

Wouldn't you love to see that one etched in stone above the doors to City Hall? Oh, I know I would. Dallas -- Modesty Capital of America! But I do need to issue a health advisory: Given current conditions, you are strongly advised not to hold your breath.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze